Starbucks founder Howard Schultz is speaking out in the wake of protests and boycotts against his company following the arrest of two black customers in a Philadelphia store. Schultz appeared on CBS This Morning on Wednesday to address the situation, telling host Gayle King he is “embarrassed” and “ashamed.”
“There’s no doubt in my mind that the reason [the police] were called was because they were African American... That’s not who Starbucks is. That’s not who we’ve been and that’s not who we’re going to be,” Schultz said. The founder, who stepped down as CEO last year and now serves as the company’s executive chairman, confirmed that the manager who called the police on the men is no longer with the company — but he also refrained from placing blame solely on one employee, saying, “I don’t think she intended when she made the call for police to arrive, and arrest the two young men.”
Schultz met with the two men on Tuesday in Philadelphia, and told King that Starbucks “will provide them with an opportunity to be part of our company, either directly or indirectly.”
Starbucks announced on Monday that it will close 8,000 of its U.S. stores on the afternoon of May 29 for staff to undergo racial bias training, in an attempt to prevent more situations like this. While some are applauding the coffee chain’s willingness to put its money where its mouth is (Bloomberg estimates that half-day of training will cost the company nearly $17 million, though that’s a drop in the bucket for a company that reported $22 billion in revenue last year), others are criticizing the move as merely a marketing tactic: An opinion piece from Quartz argues that the type of implicit bias training Starbucks will be using — which is “based on the idea that many acts of prejudice are motivated by unconscious thoughts rather than malicious, conscious racism” — has shown to be ineffective, and that “tackling the problem will require much more effort beyond a single afternoon.”
Meanwhile, another accusation of racism at Starbucks has surfaced. Per the Washington Post, a video that was shot at a Torrance, California location back in January that is now making the rounds online depicts a black man saying he was denied access to the store’s bathroom, while staff gave the bathroom entry code to a white man; neither of the men had purchased anything. The alleged incident documented in the video echoes the situation in Philadelphia, where the two men were denied access to the bathroom as they sat and waited for a friend to arrive without ordering anything, and were then arrested for trespassing.